The Artist

March 22, 2009

Bianca called me, breathless with excitement and terror. She’d been asked to hang two pieces in an upcoming show, at a trendy gallery. The Hero Show. Naturally, she’d convinced herself she had nothing good enough, and was calling me for back up. I talked her down, she settled on two litho prints of her mother, and I agreed to escort her to the opening night. From the sound of it, my job was to keep her focused, calm, and away from the free bar. And, promptly put the whole thing out of my mind as I hung up the phone.

Weeks passed, and thankfully, she called to remind me. And by ‘remind’, I of course mean, called me, hysterical, asking when I was going to pick her up, as we were already late. Damn. I dashed around my apartment, trying to get appropriately tarted up for a gala art opening. After realizing I was going to look like a bookish intellectual, regardless of the packaging, I tossed on a blazer over last season’s skinny jeans, the Guess heels, and hastily pinned up my hair with a pair of chopsticks. Bianca was pacing in her driveway when I pulled up fifteen minutes later.

“Where have you been?” she shrieked, buckling herself in. I apologized lamely, blaming my tardiness on an upcoming inorganic chem exam, which seemed to mollify her momentarily. As I pulled onto the highway, she eyed me critically.

“God, you dress like my mother. You’re going to have to lose the shirt.”

I gaped at her. “Lose the shirt? B, I’m not even wearing a bra. The shirt stays.”

“Perfect. If you’d been wearing one, I’d have told you to take it off anyway,” she shot back. She reached over to take the wheel. “Go on, take it off.”

I slapped her hands away, and turned my attention back to the road. “I’ll take it off when we get there. Christ, you want me braless and shirtless under an H&M blazer?”

“Trust me, no one will care. It’s a room full of homos and muses. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you’re not at least slightly naked.”

Parking the car downtown, I obediently removed the offending blouse, tossing it in my back seat. The shrunken blazer, with its single button left my abdomen and upper chest distressingly exposed. Bianca rolled her eyes at me. “Well, maybe now you’ll take my advice and get a tan.”

I stared down at my stomach, perfectly pale white. “I don’t tan, I burn. Spraypainting one on is just so fucking Lohan, I can’t bear it.”

She shrugged. “It’s your call, Casper. Let’s go.” She sprinted off for the gallery. Crossing one arm over my unfettered breasts, I followed.

For all the complaints, Bianca loved being late. Everyone in the room turned to see her as she tossed aside the curtain covering the door. Everyone saw the curator, Palmer, dash across the room, inquiring what kept her, squealing in breathless delight that she’d finally arrived. Everyone heard her teasingly blame her ‘assistant’ for getting the dates wrong, and suddenly, every eye in the place was on me. Me, standing next to her, braless and shirtless under my H&M blazer, my pale skin gleaming in the pink lights Palmer had trained on the entryway. I felt myself blushing.

“That’s what she gets for not getting me a BlackBerry,” I whined, batting my lashes at Palmer. He roared with laughter, and everyone else followed suit, then turned back to their conversations. I glowered at Bianca. “Your assistant?”

She smiled, pursing her lips innocently. “Well, you are going to help keep me on the straight and narrow tonight, right?”

Three hours later, Bianca is sitting in Palmer’s lap, giggling and playing with his hairpiece. She’s glassy-eyed, and trying to talk him into going back into the bathroom. I’d successfully kept her away from the bar, but Palmer had completely compromised her with coke. Bored out of my skull, I took the opportunity to wander the gallery alone. Most people were gathered around a Brazillian painter’s work, gushing about levels and saturation. I walked off into a virtually empty room. One piece dominatesdthe rear wall. Paint chips, glued to a canvas. From across the room it was unmistakable. Tommy Douglas. I couldn’t help but smile, and walked over to study it up close.

Hidden in the canvas were panels from comic books. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman – they all peek out from under thick, transluscent layers of gesso. A smile curled my lips again. I was so engrossed in the tiny details of the piece, the warm, deep, very male voice behind me startled a gasp out of me, even though he’d spoken so quietly, the words carried no further than my ears. “Like what you see?”

I spun around, my heart in my mouth. His smile is closer to a smirk, but I’m not offended. “You were just about rubbing your nose against him,” he teased, one eyebrow arching elegantly.

“He’s beautiful,” I responded. “I wanted to see all of him.”

“And now that you’ve seen him, what do you think?”

I smiled. “I think all my favorite heroes are in this piece.” I gesture to the larger picture, then point to a small, lowercase ‘r’ in the very corner.

His answering grin is something that would make any girl week in the knees. He was starving artist skinny, dark curls perfectly tousled, green-eyed. “Rorschach? Not many girls are familiar with him…Usually they like Wonder Woman, Bat Girl…”

“My father was an English teacher, at the Lycee. Made his students read it every year.” I slid my fingers up the side of my neck, to draw his attention to the tattoo behind my ear.

“Well, aren’t you a little bag of tricks? Wouldn’t have pegged you for the tattoo type. What other little secrets are you hiding?”

I felt a blush rising again, and bit my lip against a gasp, as he flattened his palm over my navel, and leaned forward to whisper, “Not that you’re really hiding much in this little get up.” His lips brushed against my ear, as his hand wrapped over my hip, his fingertips just slipping inside the waistband of my pants. “Maybe some more ink? Piercings? What?”

Mutely, I shook my head.

“No more secrets? Or no more you want to share with me?”

As I looked up into his green eyes, I suddenly wanted to share with him. Anything he wanted. But the tattoo behind my ear, a tribute to my father’s literary eccentricities, is the only scandalous thing I’ve ever done. He slowly peeled his hand away from my hip, and tucked his card into my back pocket. “I think there’s more to you. Call me.” And he walked off, pausing once in the doorway to wink at me.

I stood there, in front of Tommy Douglas, damning myself for not being able to make the charmingly risque small talk Bianca excelled at. For not being able to wink, toss off one-liners, and flip my hair over my shoulder. For not pulling him against me and kissing him as I’d wanted so badly to do, the moment his hand had covered my hip.

When I finally got home that night, the card in my back pocket had fluttered to the floor, seeming to taunt me. Most nights, I’d have simply tossed it out, and promptly put a charismatic artist, with deep green eyes, and a voice that could boil water out of my mind. Instead, I stuck it to my fridge, and crossed my fingers, and went to bed, wishing for the daring to call him.

Start Over

January 30, 2009

The things I have left behind me.

Some broken, some better.

Some bitter. Reminders of our failings. To ourselves. To each other.

Some gone forever. My own ghost stories, growing sweeter, growing sadder, with each telling. What-might-have-beens, fading to fog, faces lost, and neither of us recognizes the other.